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Do robots take people’s jobs?

In Tech on July 20, 2011 at 5:31 pm

By Erico Guizzo 

Last month, President Barack Obama announced the National Robotics Initiative, a major program to develop next-generation robots for manufacturing, healthcare, and other areas. The robotics community received the new initiative with enthusiasm, but some observers expressed concern about an expansion in automation, raising a perennial question in robotics: Do robots take people’s jobs?

“The real purpose of automating manufacturing is to eliminate skilled workers and replace them with low paid button pushers—preferably offshore,” commented one IEEE Spectrum reader who’s worked as a control engineer for 25 years. Said another: “As jobs at all levels, from McDonald’s to college-educated knowledge-workers, are increasingly automated, there will be more unemployment.” Other readers voiced similar concerns.

To hear what the pro-robots camp has to say, I spoke to John Dulchinos, president and CEO of Adept Technology, the largest U.S. industrial robotics company. Adept, based in Pleasanton, Calif., offers a variety of robotics products, including SCARA, parallel, linear, and mobile robots. Dulchinos, a mechanical engineer by training, says he became interested in robots during college. “A publication by IEEE got me into robotics,” he says. “It talked about the personal robotics revolution, how it was going to be bigger than the computer industry, and I said, I want to go into robots.”

Dulchinos says that automation, though it might take some people’s jobs in the short term, is essential for keeping…

Full article…

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